For today’s politicians, the people are the enemy

People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them.

Eric Hoffer


A quotation that admirably sums up the relationship between the electorate and our political class, in that those who complain about a government and throw them out of office do, within a short space of time, return to the fold and support those very same politicians. One only has to look at recent opinion polls to see the last government, vilified in May 2010, now supposedly leading the race to form the next government.

As is well known, politicians are generally held in contempt by the electorate and that is something of a paradox when one realises that those same politicians are forced to regularly reapply for their jobs through open elections. The contempt felt by the electorate may well be due to the fact that an MP should demonstrate their good faith to the constituents that, on their behalf, they have been elected to hold the government of the day to account; that they are not members of a separate caste, but an ordinary citizen elected to represent his/her fellows and realise that the moment he/she no longer appears as such, any moral mandate has been lost. The problem the present political class have is that through their agreement to hand sovereignty and the right to govern to Brussels, the discharge of their primary function is no longer available to them; no meaningful change to a constituent’s daily life can be offered. By ceasing to be a means of an expression of popular will, MPs have become no more than parasites in our society.

In 1874 Switzerland totally revised its constitution and it is suggested that the same process needs to be undertaken in the United Kingdom if it is intended to negate the distrust in which politicians are held by the electorate. For too long politicians have been telling us what they are going to do, instead of asking the electorate what it is they, the electorate, want. This only serves to illustrate that politicians have forgotten the basic fact that they are but servants of the people. This last assertion is exemplified by opinion poll after opinion poll showing that the majority of the electorate want a referendum on membership of the European Union, yet the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, having previously promised such a referendum, continually deny that to the electorate; all three parties promise devolution of power to the people, but retain the final decision on matters for which they wish to devolve that power – subsequently appearing as rulers, rather than servants.

On this subject of devolution, consider: there is not one area of policy that has been devolved to the Scottish Parliament that could not be devolved to local authorities. Consider also the Department of Communities and Local Government; likewise there are very few functions for which that government department is responsible that could not also be devolved to local authorities. This leads to the obvious conclusion, is the current system of government – a full time Parliament and full time MPs – the most appropriate? This last question is also prompted by the present cost of Parliament – salaries; second homes; office staffing etc. It is thus worth considering whether the Swiss model might be preferable, one in which a small legislature meet only a few days per year; where politicians are recompensed for their time only and are expected to continue with the trade or profession held prior to their election.

By devolving power on domestic matters to local authorities it would also make local councillors more accountable to their electorates and require them to take a greater interest in local policy and spending – instead of acting as ‘rubber stamps’ for central government. By extending a recall system for MPs to local politicians it would also help to concentrate the minds of those elected representatives. What in effect is being discussed here is a form of citizen legislature, a system whereby local people decide how they wish the society in which they live, to be ordered. It was Keith Joseph who said: “Give people responsibility and you will make them responsible.” That one statement negates the need for such ideas as The Big Society as by instilling in people the need for an interest in politics, politics would then become the part-time profession of everyone who would thus protect the rights and privileges of people and thereby preserve all that is good in our national heritage.

Much is made of the use of referendums in order to effect change; change that the political class would not necessarily prefer. Yet there is another type of referendum, one about which not much is heard, namely what is known as a ‘blocking’ referendum and such referenda are the ultimate check on the ambitions of the political class and guarantee that no party could make major changes without popular consent. Critics of referenda cite the cost involved and this is acknowledged, but it is also contended that politicians, knowing the ultimate sanction of the electorate may be employed, might be less inclined to attempt their normal solution to any problem – that of yet more laws.

The fact that our democracy is in need of total review can be borne out by paraphrasing Charles A. Beard; it is a sobering thought that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen is to go about repeating the very phrases that the founding fathers of what became the United States used in their struggle for independence and thus their freedom.


Caveat: Of course, readers will be only too aware that to instigate any form of  libertarian society it would be a precondition that we would need become a self-governing nation once again – a situation which would of necessity not allow us to continue our membership of the European Union.

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18 comments for “For today’s politicians, the people are the enemy

  1. May 1, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    It’s certainly a worthwhile ambition, but as you said unless or until we leave the EU it can’t even be considered as a serious proposition as any attempt to implement it would be nipped in the bud by the politicians themselves.
    Hell of a fight to do it if we left too, but at least it would be within the bounds of possibilities.

  2. May 1, 2011 at 5:28 pm


    • WitteringWitney
      May 1, 2011 at 6:53 pm

      Thank you.

  3. May 1, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    where politicians are recompensed for their time only and are expected to continue with the trade or profession held prior to their election.

    Unfortunatley with our current crop* not one has had a trade or profession which was not’Professional Politician’

    *There are a very few exceptions, but I can’t think of them and they were probably lawyers which is pretty much the same.

    • WitteringWitney
      May 1, 2011 at 6:55 pm

      Agreed but no problem – we just get a new lot and remember the present lot are destined for lamp posts.

      • May 1, 2011 at 7:43 pm

        Can we save 3 for The Kinnocks, pretty please 😆

  4. Sean O'Hare
    May 1, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    The only problem with devolving power down to local authorities is that they are, if anything, even more useless, corrupt and wasteful than higher tiers of government. The idea that my local authority should take responsibility for anything important when they can’t manage what they are supposed to look afer is laughable.

    • May 1, 2011 at 6:29 pm

      Before anything else, the long march of the Gramscians through all our institutions needs to be halted…

      • Sean O'Hare
        May 1, 2011 at 6:46 pm

        Hi Jilia. Until I Googled “Gramscians” I thought you were criticising my grammar. I am beginning to think my education wasn’t up to much.

        • WitteringWitney
          May 1, 2011 at 7:04 pm

          Me too! With this lass you learn something new every day!

    • WitteringWitney
      May 1, 2011 at 6:57 pm

      As above response. Seriously, at present there is nothing to make any local councillor take an active interest in local govrernment, even those Cabinet members. Make local councillors actually responsible and answerable is sure going to concentrate a few minds!

  5. William
    May 1, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    In a very similar vein

    From the forum comments
    It is not and is not going to be Fascist rule. We are entering a period where the structure of our government is novel, to the point of being genuinely unique. We have moved from a phase where the elites of the individual nations conspire against each other, and enlist their own peoples to support them, to a situation where the elites now combine and conspire against their own peoples, milking the treasury to payroll their hired help.

    This truly is unique … we have never come across a situation like it … unless you know different.

  6. May 1, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    “It was Keith Joseph who said: “Give people responsibility and you will make them responsible.” That one statement negates the need for such ideas as The Big Society as by instilling in people the need for an interest in politics, politics would then become the part-time profession of everyone who would thus protect the rights and privileges of people and thereby preserve all that is good in our national heritage.”

    Unfortunately, you’d first have to unspool all the learned dependencies on state and government for, well, everything.

    • WitteringWitney
      May 1, 2011 at 7:00 pm

      Actually Julia it is very simple and involves one short sharp lesson – sink or swim! The dependants will soon start swimming when they realise the lifeboats sinking!

      • Paul
        May 1, 2011 at 7:07 pm

        Could you clarify that? Are you taking a nightwatchman-state type theory to this, or the less extreme classical liberal reformist UKIP policy?

        You’ll get very few people really wanting a night watchman state type deal.

        • WitteringWitney
          May 1, 2011 at 7:15 pm

          The latter obviously! I am not including those really ill or disabled etc but the ‘layabout’ element who could work but choose not to!

          • Paul
            May 1, 2011 at 7:18 pm

            This is (understandably) a huge bone of contention on the disability blogs at the moment. What counts someone as disabled? What would be the incentives for someone with a partial, but not entirely debilitating, disability like myself (I have a mixture of disorders, some ‘hidden’, some not) be to get into work? There needs to be an incentive for doing it.

            And so on.

  7. Chuckles
    May 1, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Never thought I’d be quoting Berthold Brecht, but hey, always a first time –

    After the uprising of the 17th of June
    The Secretary of the Writers Union
    Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
    Stating that the people
    Had thrown away the confidence of the government
    And could win it back only
    By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
    In that case for the government
    To dissolve the people
    And elect another?

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